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A player from the USS Frank Cable wipes his brow during an afternoon match against a Japanese team while on port call at Sasebo last week.

A player from the USS Frank Cable wipes his brow during an afternoon match against a Japanese team while on port call at Sasebo last week. (Greg Tyler / S&S)

SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — With heat and humidity rising in Japan, health-care officials and athletic programmers are warning people to be careful.

Common sense can reduce several risk factors, said Alec Culpepper, Morale, Welfare and Recreation fitness and aquatic director. For instance, “it just makes good sense to pay attention to the color codes” of the Wet-Bulb Globe Temperature Index System, a heat index often used on military bases.

Black flags or signs signal the worst condition, Culpepper said. “In general, just don’t do it outdoors — whatever ‘it’ may be.” In condition red, only people accustomed to intense exercise in hot, humid conditions should work out and then only with caution. “The yellow and green flags,” he added, signal “high probability of no adverse physical reactions to exercise and recreation outside.”

Culpepper also urged that people from cool climates take time to acclimate themselves to warmer ones. “We have some interns here this summer (helping in summer camp) having to do just that because they’ve never lived in a climate like Sasebo’s,” which approximates southern Georgia. “It takes at least a couple of weeks.”

Cmdr. Mike Jacobs, Marine Aircraft Group 12 surgeon, recently briefed some 1,200 servicemembers at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni on health matters linked to broiling summer days. Jacobs said he discussed hydration, over-hydration and possible harm caused by overexertion in extreme heat-index conditions.

Health can be jeopardized even when temperatures aren’t in the 90s, he said; a swift change of just 10 degrees — such as a sudden increase from 75 degrees to 85 degrees — can stress the body.

“The typical active Marine should drink between two and three liters of fluid daily but the precise amount is determined by variables like environmental conditions and levels of activity,” Jacobs said.

“If you notice a decreased appetite, headaches, constipation, fatigue and decreased urination [all symptoms of dehydration], increase the fluid intake to a full three liters. Also, he said, “it’s a myth that yellow urine indicates insufficient hydration, while clear urine points to the correct amount of hydration.”

Dehydration degrades a person’s sense of well-being, especially children, he said. However, “drinking too much water can cause an illness known as hyponatermia, a lack of electrolytes,” or sodium, in the blood, Jacobs added.

“Electrolytes are key as your body utilizes glucose, or carbohydrates,” he said. “You know those sports drinks … Gatorade, Powerade and others? They’re water, sodium and sugar and there’s a reason: You need all three and not just jugs full of water.”

During periods of high exertion on hot days, the surgeon said, eating is as important as drinking water. “Make sure you eat foods such as fresh vegetables and fruits,” he said. “Both provide nutrients the body needs, such as the glucose in fruits.”

Another risk of spending time outside during sunny days is sunburn, and the worst-case scenario, skin cancer.

“The worst time of day to be tanning, exercising or doing much of anything and risking exposure to UV rays and the heat are between about 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.,” Culpepper said.

The heat index

Officials gauge heat and humidity risks using the “Wet-Bulb Globe Temperature Index System,” said Alec Culpepper, Morale, Welfare and Recreation fitness and aquatic director for Sasebo Naval Base.

The actual temperature, dew point and other factors are used to calculate a heat index.

“It’s like in the winter, when you hear about the actual temperature together with the wind speed … a chill factor is created, which is how cold it really ‘feels.’ Well, the wet-bulb index does the same thing by determining how hot it ‘feels’ on a given day compared to the actual temperature,” Culpepper said. “It could be 93 degrees, with a heat index much higher.”

—Greg Tyler


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